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3 wicked workouts to crank up your cardio game

If the idea of another drab and dull steady-state stationary bike session fills you with dread, then perhaps it’s time to crank up your cardio a notch or two.

Give the lacklustre pedalling on the recumbent bike a skip at the next session and rather transform your body into a fat-incinerating furnace

According to a 2011 study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, 2 weeks of high-intensity cardio intervals improves your aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of steady-state endurance training.

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Benefits of high-intensity aerobic exercise

  • Burn more calories per minute, both from body fat and stored glycogen, and keep you metabolism elevated for longer after your session has ended to burn more fat.
  • Get more cardiovascular benefits, faster.
  • Reduces the cortisol response commonly associated with long-duration endurance-type exercise that can leave your midsection soft.
  • Quick and convenient. You can get a beneficial effect from 20-30 minutes on a cardio machine.
  • Improves your health by boosting heart and lung (cardiorespiratory) function and your circulatory (cardiovascular) system.
  • Cardio in general improves mental health by reducing stress, anxiety and/or depression, and can boost the immune system.

Your weapons of choice

There are a host of machines that can help you light your metabolic fire and help you get ripped for summer.

Assault AirBike

Uses a 27-inch steel fan to create unlimited resistance, which is the secret to its effectiveness – the harder you work, the greater the resistance. This happens when the torque generated from the pedals and/or the arm levers is transferred to the fan at the front of the bike. As the fan blades spin, the air they move against provides resistance back to the rider. Hence, the harder you push it, the more resistance you experience. Delivers a full-body pedal, push and pull workout.

Workout 2: Assault AirBike ladder

  1. Warm-up: 5 minutes @ comfortable resistance
  2. Maintain the resistance and increase the your tempo for 30 seconds.
  3. Reduce your tempo back to the pace you started at to recover for 30 seconds.
  4. Increase your tempo for 30 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  5. Increase your tempo for 45 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  6. Increase your tempo for 60 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  7. Increase your tempo for 90 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  8. Increase your tempo for 120 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.

Now reverse the structure, decreasing the duration of your high tempo.

  1. Increase your tempo for 90 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  2. Increase your tempo for 60 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  3. Increase your tempo for 45 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  4. Increase your tempo for 30 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  5. Cool-down: 5 minutes @ comfortable resistance

Treadmill

The treadmill is the most common piece of cardio equipment you’re likely to find in the gym. That’s because it is also one of the most effective. On a calorie-per hour basis, few machines, if any, burn calories faster. Treadmills also give you the option of walking or running, with the ability to control your speed and incline to meet any goal.

Workout 1: Treadmill progressive intervals

  1. Warm-up: Jog for 5 minutes @ 1% incline
  2. Interval 1: Run 400m at a comfortable speed. This will be your baseline.
  3. Recovery interval: Jog for 60 seconds.
  4. Interval 2: Run another 400m interval at a comfortable speed, but beat the time posted in your first interval.
  5. Recovery interval: Jog for 60 seconds.
  6. Intervals 3+: Continue to run each 400m slightly faster than the previous interval, until you are unable to continue with the level of effort required to complete the distance.
  7. Cool-down: 5 minutes @ 1% incline

Rower: 

Despite common misconceptions, the rower is more than just an upper body cardio workout. This machine works the entire body at once. This means your heart has to pump blood and oxygen to the two largest muscle groups, namely your legs and back, at the same time. This makes it a great exercise to improve your fitness and blast calories. However, this does make it difficult to row at a high intensity for a prolonged period of time without sufficient conditioning. Rowing is therefore a great cardio exercise to use as part of a circuit or intervals to rapidly increase your heart rate.

Workout 3: Rower power pyramid

  1. Warm-up: 5 minutes @ easy effort
  2. 1 minute row @ max effort
  3. 1 minute row @ easy effort
  4. 2 minute row @ max effort
  5. 2 minute row @ easy effort
  6. 3 minute row @ max effort
  7. 3 minute row @ easy effort
  8. 4 minute row @ max effort
  9. 4 minute row @ easy effort
  10. 5 minute row @ max effort
  11. 5 minute row @ easy effort
  12. Cool-down: Stretching and mobility work

Row like an Olympian: The key to a fast, efficient rowing stroke is all in the legs. Your legs and hips should generate the power for the first phase of the rowing stroke. Start by driving back hard with your legs and extend your hips powerfully. As you approach the end of the range of motion, engage the muscles in your back and core, and then pull through the final phase with your arms.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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